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Australia Space Science Politics

SKA Telescope Site Debate Not Over Yet 78

Posted by timothy
from the where's-that-stupid-fat-lady dept.
angry tapir writes "Although earlier reports claimed that a scientific panel recommended South Africa over Australia as the best site for the proposed Square Kilometre Array, the SKA board of directors is still debating which country will host the enormous US$2.1-billion radio telescope. The scientific panel only recommended South Africa by a narrow margin earlier this month."
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SKA Telescope Site Debate Not Over Yet

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  • by linatux (63153)

    If only we could get reasonable internet access

    • by Taco Cowboy (5327) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @06:22PM (#39469903) Journal

      Whatever decision they made will have a lasting effect for the next 50 years

      They should not make the decision based on any other criteria but for the best of this program itself

      Political correctness has no place in Science research

      • by Rie Beam (632299)

        If I had mods points right now, you'd have 'em.

      • by Gadget_Guy (627405) * on Sunday March 25, 2012 @06:47PM (#39470051)

        Political correctness has no place in Science research

        What makes you think that political correctness has anything to do with the decision? Apparently the scientific board didn't have an "enormous preference for one over the other". According to a article linked in TFA [nature.com]:

        Since 2006, South Africa has competed against a joint bid from Australia and New Zealand to host the project. The South African site has some compelling advantages: construction costs are lower, and it sits at a higher altitude. But the Australian site would be cheaper to insure, and is less likely to be encroached on by future development. The margin in favour of the winner was extremely narrow, the source says.

        It looks like they were making the decision on very practical concerns. They are weighing the cheaper initial costs verses the running costs and practicalities over time. I can see no reason to complain about the process. The idea that political correctness had a part merely because South Africa is the favourite is in itself a form a political correctness.

        • by Taco Cowboy (5327)

          You can deny it all you want, but we have eyes

          We can see how much political correctness has influenced the psyche of the Europeans

          While it does *NOT* mean that the so-called "Panel" made their decision based on PC alone - the suspicion is unfortunately, unavoidable

          As I say, this research will last for 50 years. By the time it ends, it would be year 2070+

          I am no fortune teller, I can't see the future

          Maybe by that time SA will be more advance than AU, or maybe not

          Nevertheless, I'm sticking to my original stat

          • by Gadget_Guy (627405) * on Sunday March 25, 2012 @07:45PM (#39470449)

            Nevertheless, I'm sticking to my original statement - Whatever decision they want to make, make it according to one criteria, and ONE CRITERIA ONLY -

            What is best for the program, which will last for the next 50 years

            Fair enough, but I shall stick to my assertion that this is exactly what the SKA board is doing.

            You say that we all have eyes, but I cannot see any evidence of political correctness going on here. You say that political correctness has influenced the psyche of the Europeans, and yet I don't know of any multi-billion dollar project that has been unduly influenced by such things. And even if they had, the SKA member countries include Australia, Canada, India, China, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, the Netherlands, the UK and the USA which should be a diverse enough group to rise above the PC level.

            While it does *NOT* mean that the so-called "Panel" made their decision based on PC alone - the suspicion is unfortunately, unavoidable.

            It is only unavoidable if you base your opinion on your pre-conceived prejudices rather than looking at the facts. And what is with calling the SKA panel a so-called "Panel"? Is there something about the make-up of the Square Kilometre Array organisation that you are not telling us? Perhaps you have more "unavoidable suspicions" ready to rock the world of astronomy!

            • by broekema (1025095)

              the SKA member countries include Australia, Canada, India, China, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, the Netherlands, the UK and the USA

              The SKA organization currently consist of Australia, Canada, China, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, and the UK. Other countries do participate in the development programs.

          • Perhaps they've hired some skilled negotiators to play the two governments against each other for the best deal? Corporations do this sort of thing all the time when deciding where to situate their operations, Holden (GM) just got $250M to keep their factories here for a few more years.
        • by viperidaenz (2515578) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @07:26PM (#39470317)
          Apparently Australia already proved they can provide a lower noise-floor and it is technically the best option. It just costs a bit more and noone can get the "feel good" factor they get from giving money to African nations.
          • by Gadget_Guy (627405) * on Sunday March 25, 2012 @08:01PM (#39470523)

            It just costs a bit more and noone can get the "feel good" factor they get from giving money to African nations.

            I cited my quote about the pros and cons considered by the SKA board for each country. Perhaps you can cite your quote about this "feel good" factor to which you refer. Otherwise I shall just have to assume that you are filling in the blanks with your own biases like Taco Cowboy did.

            • by viperidaenz (2515578) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @10:02PM (#39471239)
              If Aus/NZ has a technically better (lower noise, larger area etc) proposal, what other factors should be taken into account by the scientific panel?
              • by Gadget_Guy (627405) * on Monday March 26, 2012 @12:08AM (#39471779)

                If Aus/NZ has a technically better (lower noise, larger area etc) proposal, what other factors should be taken into account by the scientific panel?

                Did you even read the part that I quoted? It lists some of the factors that were considered. Yes, there are some non-scientific things on the list, but scientists are not so insular from the realities of the world that they cannot consider cost, access etc. Do you really believe that a scientific panel would not consider things like the cost to build the site, but would actually be more guided by what you described as the "feel good" factor they get from giving money to African nations?

                I notice that you forgot to include any citation for your "feel good" factor claim too. You probably should try backing up your claim that the Australian site is "apparently" technically better too, and preferably neither citation should be from the Australian camp either.

                As the anonymous coward (dom) pointed out, and as was also stated in my quote, the South African site "sits at a higher altitude" than the Australian site. There is not a huge advantage of one site over the other. We know that this is true, because it is exactly what the panel said! I think that I will take their word for this over your "apparently it is technically better" remark.

        • by Occams (2422082)
          It is not intended that the facility will all be located entirely in the country of South Africa, but all over the war-torn African continent, Australia is an entire continent, as well as a very stable, safe and modern country. The decision should be based on risk management grounds.
      • by Fluffeh (1273756) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @06:57PM (#39470117)

        I sort of agree, but have this to add - From the article, the scientific panel had "no enormous preference for one over the other". To me, it means that both sites are good, fit the needs of the SKA and would work well. While I haven't read the recommendations in all their lengthy glory, I sort of get the feeling that both locations are well suited to the needs.

        Given that, it is actually political correctness that comes down to the final choice being made. You are absolutely right in the fact that this is a 50 year project. If both geographic locations fit the needs, then the final choice will rely on what political aspects of the locations can cause problems somewhere in the next fifty years. Will both countries be politically stable for the next half century? Will there be religious stability, will there be stability in infrastructure, are political relations with all the SKA members likely to stay on friendly terms?

        Given the large financial investment in the SKA, you really need to ensure the place you build it will be the best overall location, not just the one that has a fraction better INSERT SOMETHING that makes the scientics go "Ooohhhh" just that little touch longer. They need to be able to use the facilities for the entire length of the project in the best possible means. Having a location that is 0.12% better in terms of measurable 3 doesn't mean that much if the folks running the show have to be evacuated due to a political influence, or they run out of electricity, or some other potentially foreseeable event occurs.

      • by jekewa (751500)

        Political correctness has no place in Science research

        Surely you meant this to refer to politics and not to making sure we're saying nice things, right?

  • by TWX (665546) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @06:21PM (#39469887)

    I guess it comes down the safety and political stability for the long term.

    In South Africa there have been problems with rural people being murdered, and while their political change appears to have by-and-large completed, no guarantee.

    In Australia, their government appears stable, but they've had some issues with censorship and excessive searching of people at their ports, plus one runs the risk of running afoul of biker gangs, and having to be avenged by a lone cop driving the last of the V8 interceptors. Then there's the problem of who runs Barter Town and breaking deals and facing wheels...

    • by Anonymous Coward

      As someone that ACTUALLY lives in Australia i can tell by reading this that you either don’t live here and have a tiny fraction of an idea about what goes on here OR you do live here and have you head in the sand.

      Bikie gangs are so irrelevant I live close to where they are meant to be and I am same because they are suck a non-event that the papers blow out of proportion because they finally have something to write about.

      Stability 1
      Australia is the model of stability, there are only 21~2 million of us

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      plus one runs the risk of running afoul of biker gangs, and having to be avenged by a lone cop driving the last of the V8 interceptors. Then there's the problem of who runs Barter Town and breaking deals and facing wheels...

      Less known, but on the plus side... God will not interfere with SKA; failing that, the churches would pay.

    • by fermion (181285)
      Much of the problems in Africa, as far as I can tell from talking to the people from the continent, is that the profits from resource extraction are not shared with the people. For instance nigerians tell me that the oil money is not, as it is in the US, used to set up public infrastructure, but to enrich certain people. Obviously this telescope is going to utilize the local natural resources(the land, the spectrum, the sky, and if the riches produced are not shared with the people, then trouble will ensu
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I go with Australia. Much of the code we use is written there. And they have wallabys. South America seems like a bunch of tin pot dictators (Brazil excepted, of course).
    • by grim-one (1312413)

      South America seems like a bunch of tin pot dictators (Brazil excepted, of course).

      Either you jest or you didn't read the summary very well.

  • by Gadget_Guy (627405) * on Sunday March 25, 2012 @06:32PM (#39469957)

    How does anything in this new story conflict with the earlier /. story? To quote the original summary:

    A scientific panel has narrowly recommended South Africa over Australia as the best site for the proposed Square Kilometre Array (SKA), an enormous US$2.1-billion radio telescope. While the project's member states have yet to make a final decision on where the telescope will go, the odds are now that the African bid will ultimately win out against the joint bid from Australia and New Zealand to host the project.

    So to summarise the summary, the scientific panel recommended South Africa by a narrow margin, but the member states are still to make a final decision.

    But this new story says that the the scientific panel recommended South Africa by a narrow margin, but the board of directors is still to make a final decision.

    This is simply a dupe. Actually, that is not quite true. It is probably more accurate to say that it is simply a dupe. A dupe, simply.

  • Build it across both. The increased distance between the extreme ends of the telescope will give you a larger virtual dish (which is the whole point of the telescope) and the increase in lines of longitude mean that you get longer to observe something.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You get the best possible virtual dish by have a central concentration of antennas, with gradually wider-spaced ones as you move out. (The term astronomers use for this is "u-v coverage".) See here [sciencelearn.org.nz] for an example: the Australian bid would have most of the antennas in Western Australia, with a handful scattered across the rest of the continent and New Zealand. Similarly, the South African bid would have most of the antennas in-country, but with a few scattered northwards across the rest of the continent.

  • by gandhi_2 (1108023) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @07:09PM (#39470193) Homepage

    Jamaica wouldn't work.

    It's too hot.

  • I humbly submit Prairie Chapel Ranch at Crawford Texas, U.S.A. There's nothing there worth more than the advancement of man's understanding of the universe. And It would even raise property values!

It was kinda like stuffing the wrong card in a computer, when you're stickin' those artificial stimulants in your arm. -- Dion, noted computer scientist

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